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Zacks Industry Outlook Highlights: Staples, Macy's, Nordstrom and Chico's FAS

CHICAGO, March 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Zacks Equity Research discusses the Retail, including Staples Inc. (Nasdaq:SPLS-Free Report), Macy's Inc. (NYSE:M-Free Report), Nordstrom Inc. (NYSE:JWN-Free Report) and Chico's FAS Inc. (NYSE:CHS-Free Report).

Zacks Investment Research, Inc., www.zacks.com

Industry: Retail

Link: http://www.zacks.com/commentary/31691/

The retail industry is rapidly evolving with a dramatic change in consumer buying habits. Consumers today are knowledgeable, more inquisitive and choosy. Satisfying customers and enriching their buying experience require new strategies. Modern retailing, interestingly enough, is a new game with new rules.

According to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) monthly economic review published on Feb 6, 2014, retail industry sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) is projected to grow 4.1% for 2014, modestly higher than the preliminary 3.7% growth registered in 2013. Further, given the recent boom in the digital world, NRF anticipates solid growth for the online business this year capturing growth rates in the 9% – 12% range against 10.3% growth in 2013.

Some of the trends that are expected to rule the retail sector going forward include increased technological solutions, incorporating customer feedback and targeting additional audiences with products and services.

Omnichannel Retailing the New Norm: The sluggish U.S. economy and continued weakness in Europe have driven retailers to focus on buyers' needs and lure them with innovative products, attractive discounts, free shipping and the ease of shopping through smartphones and tablets. As these efforts failed to pay off, retailers felt the need for a better channel to connect with customers and engage them through all possible means.

This gave rise to the "omnichannel" approach, which focuses on providing more touch points and multiple channels to customers. This approach facilitates the use of all possible mediums to engage consumers, including brick and mortar stores, online and mobile at the same time or alternatively.

This strategy provides customers the ease of selection, purchase and exchange of a product through multiple channels. For example, a customer may select a product online, buy it through his phone and may have the option to exchange the same by visiting a store without any hassle. Some retailers who are already benefiting from this strategy include Staples Inc. (Nasdaq:SPLS-Free Report), Macy's Inc. (NYSE:M-Free Report), Nordstrom Inc. (NYSE:JWN-Free Report) and Chico's FAS Inc. (NYSE:CHS-Free Report).

Personalized in-store Experience: With the growth of the .com era and an evolved consumer, retailers are pulling up their socks to reinvent their marketing style, evolving from the previous mass advertising and promotions format to a more personalized method, which will impress today's omnichannel customer. The consumer today seeks a more direct communication through an app on their smartphone or an internet chat on the company's website. Moreover, the customers prefer tailored offers and recommendations online as well as in stores.

Increasing Use of Mobile Wallet Technology: With everything in retail undergoing a sea change, the modes of payment used when shopping have also evolved drastically. The increasing use of smartphones, tablets and mobile technology has given rise to a new mobile application called 'mobile wallet' through which customers can be make payments instantly using their smartphones or tablets. Though cash and credit cards will remain the primary payment methods, the use of mobile wallets is catching up quickly among mobile users for the convenience it offers.

The popularity of this app among customers is driving retailers to adapt this payment mode by collaborating with some of the mobile wallet providers available in the market like PayPal, Google Wallet, Square Wallet, Dwolla, and more.

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